JOSH Parker is determined to put a difficult six months behind him and prove a point after signing for Oxford United on non-contract terms.
The 22-year-old played for QPR just two seasons ago after coming through the youth ranks at Loftus Road, but his career has stalled since.
Spells at five other clubs have followed without a great deal of success, so the striker knows there is plenty riding on his move to United.
He said: “I was happy training, but when it comes to the first game and I put on the kit it will be a very big deal for me.
“I’m still young, but I’ve got to grow up, there’s a lot of responsibility on my shoulders and I’ve got to start living up to it.
“A lot of people say I have promise, but I don’t think I’ve even come close to living up to it yet, hopefully I can do that here.
“The manager (Chris Wilder) was very keen to have me and the players were very friendly from the start.
“It was the most humble and welcoming club that I’ve been at, that’s for sure.”
Parker’s commitment to the game has been tested to the full since picking up an ankle injury in the final game of last season, when he was on loan at Dagenham & Redbridge from Oldham Athletic.
It seemed a minor issue at the time and he went on to play international football for Antigua and Barbuda before scans revealed the injury inhis ankle. Injuries are always difficult for players, but Parker discovered the problems are multiplied as a free agent, when you have to fund the treatment yourself.
He said: “It’s been the toughest six months of my life. “It wasn’t the fact I was injured, it was the fact I was injured and not at a club. That’s the first time I’ve been in that situation. “It’s very hard mentally. At times you feel like giving up. “You’re all on your own and depending on yourself, but after sitting down with my family. “My baby was born four weeks ago, it’s given me the kick up the backside to push on.”
Top of Parker’s priorities at United is to score a first senior goal.
His career statistics show 38 appearances so far without finding the net.
It is far from promising as a striker, although a significant chunk of the games saw him playing either as a wide midfielder or full back.
Nonetheless, it is a monkey he is desperate to get off his back.
“That would be one of the first things on my mind,” he said.
“I never expected to play most of my professional games at QPR and even a couple at Oldham as a right back, but I just got thrown in there.
“It’s sort of a compliment that they think I can play there, but obviously when you’re a striker goals are automatically in your head.
“Once I get that first goal it will be a really big confidence boost.”